Sunday, May 11, 2008

No Miracles Tonight

It's been raining for 72 hours. My yard is a quagmire, and sunshine is a myth. It will never stop raining. In the past three days, storms flooded the lower Potomac, tornadoes decimated a nearby suburban town, and a small earthquake was felt inside the Beltway. We are in northern Virginia, 12 miles from the White House, and the gods are obviously pissed off.

I am waiting for a miracle to occur. For a call. For an email. For a sign. Hope lingers. It is silly to wait, but within the recovery crowd, "don't quit before the miracle happens" is a common adage. No one knows exactly what this means, or which miracle we are referring to. The desire to stop using drugs? The wish that someone close to us stop using drugs? Perhaps an awakening, a coming to one's senses. A return to health, a fulfillment, an end to sadness. I am waiting for a miracle to occur but lack the faith to really believe it will. The truth is , miracles scare me. I don't trust them. The ones I have witnessed have never lasted, been peremptory and temporary. Often, they've done more harm than good, raised and dashed expectations and left the beneficiaries shaken.

And yet... Einstein is reputed to have said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. I think he had it wrong. People play the lottery and occasionally win, and any child will tell you that repetition sometimes leads to learning. So, like Leonard Cohen, I'm waiting for a miracle.

Here's installment 22 of Wasted Miracles.
When Josie came home she swept by her mother, but not quickly enough. Catherine saw her daughter’s puffy face, red-rimmed eyes, wasted mascara. She put a hand on Josie’s shoulder but the girl shrugged it off less in anger than in weariness. She said, “Oh, mom!” For a frozen instant Catherine saw whirlpools of sadness in her daughter’s eyes. She held on to the moment as long as she could but it was gone, she couldn’t tell what was there now. Then Josie shook her head, mumbled, “It’s not important. See you tomorrow.” And went straight up the stairs and locked herself in her bedroom.

Chapter 5

Two days later there was a massive storm and a family of five out on a picnic drowned in Rock Creek, the generally timid stream that bisects Washington’s northwest section. Trees planted up and down the major avenues snapped, sewers overflowed, power lines fell. Colin’s apartment was one of hundreds in the Virginia suburbs darkened by a blackout. He was watching sheet lightning flare across the horizon when his phone rang. It was Orin G.
“Lights are out but the phones are still working. Is this a great country or what? Listen, I’m bored, TV’s down and Marsha’s taking a nap, woman could sleep through a carpet bombing. I haven’t seen you for awhile and generally when you don’t want to see me, it means you should ‘cause you got something on your mind. So come on over. Oh, and stop at the Giant and get me some salami. Thin slice Genoa.”
Colin drove through the rain to his AA sponsor’s house. The occasional one-on-ones were something Orin G had insisted upon before taking Colin on, and Colin didn’t always look forward to them. Orin was not a friend, probably never would be, he’d been sponsoring Colin more than five years now and still their encounters were punctuated with long silences that made Colin uncomfortable, though Orin never seemed to mind. He just sat, overflowing his wheelchair, an ever-present glass of two-percent milk by his side.
Once Orin had stood more than six feet tall but not anymore. His left leg had been amputated after a motorcycle accident when he was only sixteen. His right leg had been taken off just above the knee fifteen years later when gangrene had set in after a month spent shooting speedballs in his inner thigh and between his toes with bad needles. After that, Orin started drinking. Eight years later on a bright Sunday afternoon he hit his personal bottom and wheeled his chair with himself in it onto the middle island of the Beltway just north of the Tyson’s exit. Police cars surrounded him within minutes. He had a gun, a chrome plated Smith & Wesson with which he threatened the cops. A young officer shot him twice in the chest. Orin had shown Colin the scars, two hard puckered nodes, one below each clavicle.
After he came out of the hospital he was charged with more offenses than the county judge had ever seen applied against one man at one time, and this had impressed the magistrate so much that he proposed a deal. Orin would go into a rehab. After that he would live in a sober halfway house for an indeterminate amount of time, and he would go to at least one AA or NA meeting daily. He would personally see the judge each week at the judge’s home. He would get counseling, learn to read and write properly, pass his high school equivalency, get a trade. Orin did all that and on the second anniversary of his sobriety, he married the judge’s daughter.

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